I didn’t always know what I wanted to be, but I knew the woman I wanted to become – Diane Von Furstenberg
Like many of you, I fell in love with the word Nala from the country of my birth’s (Lesotho) coat of arms. In Sesotho Nala means prosperity. I wanted my brand to be a sign of prosperity for women. However, I also loved Nahla from The Lion King – wasn’t she cute?
It was in my second year at the university then known as RAU (now UJ) that I thought of starting a business selling pillows. At the time I was enrolled for a degree I had no interest in. When you come from a disadvantaged background, you are forced to enrol for anything just as long as you escape the environment you are in. Sadly, this was my reality and it remains the reality of many of us. I spent most of my time then sleeping. Looking back, I now know I was depressed, but I don't think anyone around me knew how to respond or understood what it was I was going through. I would then spend a lot of time enrolling in and dropping out of institutions. Some, I was unceremoniously excluded from.
I took some time off from studying and moved back home. During this time, I babysat my nieces. Something during that time made me question if anything were to happen to me, what my nieces would have to say about me. It struck me that I needed to be someone that they could be proud of. Someone they might one day want to emulate. If I couldn't do it for myself then I owed it to them to make something of myself.
I picked up one of Jackie Collins’ books, a guilty pleasure. No author can write about the lives of the rich and fabulous like Jackie. I mean, Lauren Weisberger gave us Sex and the City, but Jackie knew glamour and I would lose myself in her books. But most importantly, Jackie wrote about these powerful women who were in charge of their lives. They had fabulous wardrobes, were sexually empowered, and they were forces. I wanted to be those women.
So, I gave school one more shot and enrolled for a degree that I was determined to see through this time around. For some reason, I started sketching sleepwear, but I didn’t make much of it. I remember thinking to myself, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to have sleepwear made from Seshoe-shoe?’. Of course, that was a dumb idea and not very practical. I abandoned that idea and focused on completing my studies. I completed that degree. Completing that degree meant so much to me and my family. It was probably a fulfilment of one of my mom’s dreams.
I honestly loved what I studied but I knew advertising was not something that I wanted to do with my life. I loved the idea of building brands but I hated what getting into the industry meant for my mental health. I applied for jobs and just never got any and some I turned down.
I don’t know if I would describe myself as brave, but I have come to realise that life has often forced me to be brave, to go where people from my background were not normally welcome. That was the hand that life had dealt me, so I learned to work with whatever life threw my way.
It was in 2019 that I would start working on NAHLA. There’s a quote by Nigerian poet Ijeoma Umebinyuo that I love. It was a source of inspiration for me to start. It goes:
“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just... start.”
So, I started to work on NAHLA. Numerous things went wrong and I made some really expensive mistakes. Nevertheless, I persevered, and here we are. I have often wondered – and I am sure you are also wondering – why sleepwear? It came to me much later in the process that my love of sleepwear came from my mother.
No matter how hard things seemed or were, I always had cute pyjamas. It was the one sure thing I knew I would (and still) get when I go home. It is only fitting that after all, we (my mother and I) have been through together, that I would do something with my life that pays homage to how far we come.
I find it a huge blessing to have and do what I love. But most importantly to do it for people I love- Women, I admire their strength and energy. I am always inspired by them, by their friendships and strong bonds they share with those they love.
With that said I welcome you to this sisterhood, may this be a start of a lifelong and ever-growing friendship.
By: Makori Mosiuoa
Edited: Pearl Boshomane Tsotetsi